Quickly, I slammed the car door shut and darted to the sidewalk. It was a cold February evening for a jaunt amidst the town square in Marion, Illinois…but for a Gospel Sing, well, it was worth it. The Civic Center sits on the corner of South Market Street. I rushed along the walkway, crossing two streets before entering the glass doors. Upon entering, one had to squeeze through the press of bodies to where they wanted to go. If “Baptists” (or any other denomination) were ever accused of walking in at the last minute to church, a concert or any other social function – it certainly did not apply at the Truthseekers Homecoming! Over an hour before the concert, fans swarmed the Marion Civic/Convention Center, and with a line up like Brian Free and Assurance, Ivan Parker and the LeFevre Quartet, who wouldn’t?
Now, I have a confession to make…I missed the LeFevre’s first set! Oh, I heard it, but I wasn’t in my seat to see it. Yet, from the sounds wafting out of the theater, the crowd went wild over their rendition of I Know A Man Who Can! I slipped inside to catch their closing song, the powerful ballad Jesus Saves. That happens to be my favorite LeFevre song and no matter what I was doing before…I wasn’t going to miss that one! *smile*
“I have so many stories about Brian that I can’t tell,” said Mike, sighing and disappointed that he couldn’t share a good story to introduce BFA. Instead, he said this, “I had the privilege to sing with this group when it first started many years ago – they hold up a banner of the reality of what it is to be a Christian.” With that complement, Brian Free and Assurance walked on stage and began singing What a Beautiful Day (for the Lord to come again). “How are ya’ll tonight?” Brian asked the crowd between songs, “It’s good to be back in Marion! C’mon everybody! Let’s get those hands going!” Their second tune, If the Lord Says Do It, featured Jeremy and comes from their current CD. From the smiling faces all around me, I’d say the snappy tune pleased the audience well! Brian stepped forward to encourage the audience to listen carefully to the words of the following song, he said, “This song right here says what I think we need now more than ever.” The simple, one word title of the number said it all – Revival. Derrick sang the verses and the conviction he put into the delivery was sincere and honest. Just a Little Talk with Jesus came next. After a few words into the first verse, lead singer Bill Shivers requested that we sing along with them! As the chorus rolled around, he held out his mic to the front row like he was letting them sing his part, clearly pleased with the singing he heard. “It’s so good to see all these smiling faces,” Brian said happily when the song came to a close, “I love the beautiful new auditorium.” When he questioned who was seeing BFA live for the first time, he went on to quickly introduce the rest of the quartet. Bill couldn’t resist teasing Brian when it came time to introduce him. After explaining to the crowd that Brian Free is the most awarded tenor in SGM, he interjected, “He’s even won some of the female vocalist awards!” LOL Brian turned to look at Bill and Bill took a big step away from him! Brian laughed then. Another track began and Bill beckoned us to listen to the words of the song, simply titled, I Will Be Praying. “How many believe in the power of prayer?” Brian asked afterwards, “As Christians, we sometimes forget to tap into the resources we’ve been given. We need to count on Him knowing that He knows our need.” Changing topics, he then went on to introduce their next song, which was also their first radio single from their “Nothing But Love” CD, and #1 song on the Singing News Charts for the month of February, I Want To Be That Man. Praying Man came back to back and everyone clapped along. During the outro, Bill placed his hand over his stomach as if he was out of breath while the audience applauded. Brian then went on to talk about their current radio single, Calvary’s Cry. He began by acknowledging that sometimes, after we’ve been saved for a number of years, it’s possible we can get a little jaded and forget what it was like to get up from the altar. “Salvation is a free gift to you and me, but it came at a great price,” Brian reminded us. But this song sheds fresh light on it, and it affected the audience so, because they gave it a standing ovation. Brian cried out, “What a song! And as long as we got King Jesus we don’t need nobody else!” Long As I Got King Jesus finished up their set, and all across the audience fans began to stand and clap along. When the guys left the stage and Brian stayed on to introduce Ivan, there were some insistent shouts of, “Brian! You need to sing that again!” “Yeah! Sing it again!” Poor Brian had to answer, “I’m sorry, we don’t have time!”
Scratching his head, Brian pondered aloud, “Ivan…Ivan is…what do I say about Ivan?” He paused and a lady on the front row shouted very loudly, “Tall, dark and handsome!” Brian considered, “Tall, dark and handsome…that’s not what I was going to say. Not that it isn’t true!” A lady on the front right hollered, “AND HE DOESN’T AGE!” Brian kept up with the banter, “That’s right, he’s Indian and they don’t age…most people don’t know he’s 119!” LOL Going off topic completely, Brian asked how many were here last year when they did that hilarious CD pitch. A good amount raised their hands. Brian said that he and Ivan were talking about that earlier and decided not to do that again this year – they were convinced they didn’t sell anything because we didn’t hear what they were saying! LOL Once the crowd settled down, Brian was able to introduce Ivan with a serious, sincere comment. This is what he said, “One of the greatest voices in Christian music – Ivan Parker.” Before Brian could leave the stage, Ivan came on and gave him a hug. Ivan’s snappy tune, Big Change, kicked off his set. “We are back in Marion, Illinois and it feels good in here tonight!” said Ivan. “This song is one that I love to sing.” It was also one that I personally love to hear – it’s called I Am Whatever You Need. “You know,” pondered Ivan, “sometimes its fun to go back and grab an old classic, see if you remember this one!” Then went on to sing It Is No Secret. He took a moment and told us of how he loves hearing the Homecoming Choir and then teased us, “Makes me wonder what you’re doing tomorrow night?” LOL (He loves to hear the crowd sing along!) What he did next was, in his words, “something new”. He turned and waved to someone behind stage, and then his son, Josh, emerged and came to stand by his Dad. Ivan shared with the audience how Josh had just finished four years of college – he majored in music “with an emphasis in guitar,” as Ivan says. “Would it be okay if I added a little something special in the program tonight and let Josh play guitar?” The crowd applauded their approval and Ivan turned to Josh and said, “Baby, play it just like I showed you…” Josh got a chuckle out of that! His guitar solo was Shout to the Lord – when he came to the chorus everyone clapped and at the end, nothing but a standing ovation would do! Josh wore a huge grin and Ivan’s face was stained with happy tears. Josh stayed on stage and played guitar for the rest of the set…but Ivan decided he was going to play something too! “Since I’m kind of among friends,” he said, then paused and asked, “How many here are my friend?…ah, about 13 of you.” LOL Anyway, he said that he wanted to showcase his gift as a musician. Now, this was something very special…pulling a “cow bell” out from behind the sound board, he said, “I went on You Tube and learned how to play one of these things.” LOL So he sang the classic Sail On and accompanied himself singing…with a cow bell. From the crowd’s response, it was a hit too! Ivan laughed, “I am so thrilled that God has allowed us to have a good sense of humor. We ought to have fun when we go to church…even if it takes a cow bell to do it!” We had a lot of fun that night too, but we did have our share of mini sermons too, and right here, Ivan went into one…
“We are not defeated because we have the Lord Jesus – the King of Kings – on our side. No matter what valley we go through, He is leading the way. We go through storms and valleys, but they are not to make us weak and falter and lay by the wayside, they are to give us strength and courage. When the Devil comes, we can know that we know that we know that we have the Master on our side! Hang onto the hand of God!”
When he finished building up the Believers, he added, “I don’t know who this is for tonight, but please listen.” That song was I Choose. It was priceless to see Josh singing the words to himself as his father sang them! Taking a peek at his watch, Ivan sighed and said, “I better sing one more song for you…one of the greatest songs I’ve ever recorded.” It was Midnight Cry, and on the last chorus Brian, Mike and Jordan came out to sing with Ivan. Standing Ovation!
The moments before intermission was when all the groups talk about their product, yet, at that moment the guys were hesitant. No one wanted to be the first one! So Mike began to speak, “When I walked in the building and saw Brian Free standing there, I could only guess they called pest control.” LOL Brian rattled something off and Ivan asked him what he said because he missed it. Mike answered, “He said, ‘just because we don’t color our hair!’” Proud of his grey, Brian stood and ran his fingers through the hair at his temples, then the top of his head and finally his white beard. Then he pointed to Ivan, “I already told them you’re 119!” LOL Ivan began his CD pitch and with just a look in Brian’s direction, Brian announced, “I’m not going over there!” Ivan, Brian and Mike were obviously trying so hard to bite their tongues from teasing! On the other hand, Brian did lay his head on Mike’s shoulder and pretended to snore! Danny Jones commented, “The three stooges have returned.” At some point in the product pitch, Ivan made a comment about Brian’s sales pitch being long. So when it came Brian’s turn, he walked up to the center of the stage, said, “Ivan said ours was gonna’ be long, well…we’ve got CD’s.” Saluted, bowed and walked off stage. LOL Even Bill’s face looked surprised with the brevity of that speech!
After intermission each group came back out and sang two songs. The LeFevre’s sang two songs that featured Jordan – Let Me Tell You About Jesus and I’ve Got My Reservation. In between groups, Danny Jones thanked Mike for their singing and then informed someone that they needed to move their car. “I don’t know why, I don’t know if the police are standing next to it, etc.” Brian exclaimed, “It’s on fire!” LOL Danny went over to Brian and put his arm around his shoulders and said, “This man has become my favorite tenor…because he shut down Ivan Parker.” LOL (Referring to the long vs. short CD pitch.) Then he announced that he had made an executive decision that if BFA wanted to sing all night, they could! Brian Free and Assurance came back on with two songs that featured Jeremy – Save Me a Seat and Jesus Will Pick You Up. That last one received a standing ovation. Brian introduced Ivan again who came out and sang I’m Going Home. “Hasn’t this been wonderful tonight?” Ivan asked. He took a moment to share how appreciative they are of the Truthseekers and their work in promoting Gospel Music. Then he asked all the military to stand and sent a big thank you to them by dedicating this song to those who have defended this country – God Bless the USA. Immediately, everyone stood in honor of the lyrics and what they meant. When the ballad concluded, Brian dismissed us in prayer.
Conclusion: They say a picture is worth a thousand words…